Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Conversation with Ron Felber, Author of the Jack Madson Thrillers

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Ron Felber
with Ron Felber

We are delighted to welcome novelist Ron Felber to Omnimystery News today.

Ron's first in a new series of thrillers featuring ex-cop Jack Madson is A Man of Indeterminate Value (Barricade Books; June 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats).

We recently had an opportunity to talk to Ron about the book and what direction he sees the character taking in the future.

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Omnimystery News: What criteria did you use when developing the character of Jack Madson?

Ron Felber
Photo provided courtesy of
Ron Felber

Ron Felber: The first hurdle for a series character is sustainability. An author has to know that not only is he or she interested in the protagonist but that the audience wants to live with him going forward into multiple books. For this reason, it's important that the series character go through a "character arc" along with his fans like Jack Madson beginning with A Man of Indeterminate Value. The starting point can be whatever you like — obviously, the more engaging the better — but there needs to be growth or decline and certainly internal development or devolution within the protagonist as a unique and interesting individual that the reader can follow and become involved with. A good example I think is Cormac McCarthy's hero John Grady in his Border trilogy. Grady becomes your friend, or you brother, or son, but whatever he is to you, you care about him and root for his finally achieving the just end he deserves.

In terms of plot or character, which comes first in the creation of a series protagonist, I'd say every serious writer has a point he or she is trying to make about life and the way it should/shouldn't be lived. In order to accomplish this, an author needs a vehicle, a character to drive that vision forward. So, I'd say character comes first, followed by plot, because deep inside, whether they know it or not, every writer strives to create a John Grady or a Holden Caulfield. Once he does, the rest takes care of itself. Certainly, my character Jack Madson is one of those.

OMN: Into what genre would you categorize the series?

RF: These days, A Man of Indeterminate Value and its sequel, The Kafka Society, are what I'm up to and very excited about. Clearly, the Madson series falls into the very iconic category of crime fiction thriller along with the works of James Cain, Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly and others. For me, this is a large and exciting genre that gives an author plenty of room to spread his wings and expand on what others have done so successfully. From my side, a taut, thrilling plot is just the beginning. I call Jack Madson an "existential pilgrim finding his way through the rubble of the new America." What readers will see is the development of Madson as a man all the while exploring the darkest corridors of the American dream crowded with sex, corruption, and violence.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher synopsis.

RF: The reviews for this first novel have been stunning in their praise which I can tell you I am ecstatic about. Aside from the usual "gritty, fast-paced, and dynamic" type of critique, one reviewer called the novel "a diary of despair." As some may know, Madson, trapped in a hate-filled marriage and with the walls of Wall Street closing in on him, fakes his death in a boating accident and makes off to Mexico where a Chinese criminal triad he has been working for has stashed a cool $2.5 million away for him. Well, things don't go as planned, but it isn't because Madson is living a life of "despair", it's because he, like so many post-9/11 Americans, is living a life of "desperation." There's a difference. Desperate people do desperate things, and that is what gives A Man of Indeterminate Value an edginess unlike any other crime fiction thriller out there today.

OMN: Did you incorporate any of your own personal or professional experiences into the book?

RF: Like my protagonist, Madson, I have worked as a deputy sheriff transporting federal prisoners and have fought as a semi-professional boxer. I graduated from Georgetown University, but Jack dropped out after sophomore year. Jack works on Wall Street. I am CEO of a major manufacturing company. All of this goes to show, I — like Hemingway or Mailer — use what I know and understand as a backdrop to my work. Yet, on the other hand, unlike Jack, I'm happily married with three great kids. Haven't sold intellectual property to the Chinese and wouldn't entertain doing it for a moment. Don't have millions waiting for me in a Queretaro bank account, and try to avoid both drugs and excessive drinking; hangovers aren't helpful when you're trying to write a best seller!

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

RF: The process has evolved to where I am today. I never write for less than six hours. For me, anything less is a waste of time. When I write, I compare it to "going under water" or "going to prison" because I want absolutely no distractions. A leaky faucet could mean the end of modern plumbing in our home! Generally, I work from a brief chapter by chapter outline and do the research for that chapter (those scenes) in advance with additional info gleaned along the way as necessary. Unlike, say, Hemingway, who did three pages a day, I work very early in the morning or on long international airplane flights when everyone else is asleep. That way, I don't feel like I'm missing out on all the fun!

OMN: What advice might you offer to new writers?

RF: The best advice I can give an aspiring author is to never give up. Writing is not a job, it's a life. The best way to become a successful author is to live a long life and outlast your critics! In terms of harsh criticism, we all get it, but I don't think there's anything more hurtful to a writer than someone who is high-handed, dismissive, and stupid at the same time. Any criticism is helpful if given in the right spirit. The most helpful comment for me came from three individuals: One, my sixth grade teacher, "No one else writes like you." Two, a Benedictine priest who said, "Son, I'm going to publish your stories in our school literary magazine." Three. The writer William Peter Blatty who said, "Ron, you have the brains and will to be a fine novelist."

OMN: How did you go about choosing the title for the book?

RF: A Man of Indeterminate Value is an unusual title. We had trouble fitting it onto the book cover but insisted that it not be changed. The title has a double meaning in the context of the novel, of course. On the one hand, the insurance investigator tracking down Madson needs to know what value his company places on the life of this man. On the other, Madson, now a fugitive criminal on the run, wonders what his or any man's life is truly worth. In other words, is there value to this existence of ours?

OMN: One of your previous books was optioned for television. What was that like for you?

RF: Il Dottore, recently put out along with A Man of Indeterminate Value and currently at book stores, was turned into the FOX prime time drama The Mob Doctor. Unfortunately, I had little to say about how it was produced, written, or directed, and that was disappointing. I do believe I could have been helpful to the show. Fortunately, it looks like Hollywood has come calling again, this time for a Jack Madson movie franchise. Since this is fiction and the other was non-fiction, I'm pretty sure they'll want to hear what I have to say about this new character which is entirely my own invention. I'm really excited about it!

OMN: Create a Top 5 list on any topic.

RF: Okay, here's my top five favorite boxers of all time: Jack Dempsey, Roberto Duran, Gene Tunney, Sugar Ray Robinson, Manny Pacquiao.

OMN: What's next for you?

RF: That's easy, The Kafka Society! Jack Madson is asked to help an old high school chum who, unlike him, has gravitated to become Assistant Director of the FBI-Eastern Seaboard and a Stanford-educated multi-millionaire. It seems his long lost friend, an Opus Deo Catholic and pillar of the community, is being black mailed by call girl/porn star, Havana Spice. At the same time, Jack wakes up after a night on the town with a ravishing gentlemen's club dancer, with no memory for the past twenty-four hours and the severed head of a fourteen year-old Asian kid hidden away in the trunk of his car.

It gets better from there!

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Ron Felber began his writing career with articles for True Detective and went on to write three books in the Nick Carter series. Many of the themes explored in Felber's new thriller, A Man of Indeterminate Value, are based on his own experiences as CEO of a manufacturing company. For more information about the author and his work, please visit his website at RonFelber.com.

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A Man of Indeterminate Value by Ron Felber

A Man of Indeterminate Value
Ron Felber
A Jack Madson Thriller

Having been forced out of Georgetown University when his scholarship money dries up, Jack Madson spends a few years as a D.C. cop until he's able to land an executive job at NuGeneration Holdings, a hyper-aggressive Wall Street firm that buys and guts American manufacturing companies. Madson quickly grows to detest his firm's hypocrisy. But, he eventually finds himself as jaded as the bosses he scorns when he starts selling the trade secrets of the companies NuGen acquires to the illicit Chinese Triads.

The $2.5 million that he socks away in a secret Mexican bank account becomes Madson's escape route from all that has come to symbolize his miserable life. But when he finally arrives south-of-the-border, he learns that he's been double-crossed by his partner in crime — and his bank account is empty. Madson has no choice but to return to the States and make a last ditch effort to double his ill-begotten payoff. The hitch? He must break into the computer system at NuGen to retrieve highly valuable bio-tech secrets.

As bodies pile up, Madson struggles to stay one step ahead of the laser-focused insurance claims investigator who is determined to prove that his "accidental death" is anything but.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

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